(Sorry in advance- this is probably a moan).
The day starts innocently enough. Radio4, tea, Rachel squishing cereal she has no intention of eating. We discuss our plans. She thinks we should go to a toy shop, on a boat, and to the park. I agree the park, but think we should probably clean up and pop in to see my friend. Slight disagreement-is over quickly.
Then the tax credits notice arrives. I read the letter. The 4 page letter. Then the neighbour brings one that has accidentally been delivered to her house. Another four sheets of incomprehensible jargon, providing two seperate breakdowns of payments that I dont understand. The warning at the bottom suggests that I might find myself in prison being flogged by a torturer left over from Thatcherite days, and that I will have sell Rachel into slavery, if I have not notified them of any important errors.
It isnt that I am stupid- although I am nowhere near as smart as I think I am. These letters are just not even english, and follow distorted logic, that has never found it into my old philosophy books. THe payment is awarded on the basis of what I might earn, even though, as my other posts on this blog have shown- my ‘earnings’ are slightly unpredictable. It is broken down into different forms of tax credits- and the actual award isnt decided until next tax year begins. Any overpayment will be recovered swiftly- and without consideration of my selfish need to eat.
I figure it might be like parents evenings, where they cant say what they need in the school report, and maybe I need a person to explain it to dumb old me. So I ring the ‘help’ line. I listen to the menus, which each take minutes, only to find that I am a miscellaneous enquiry, which does not fit into these menus. I press 5, and it tells me they are very busy, and cuts me off. Now pardon me, but I am also very busy- and I bet they dont have a two year old demanding to put a pull up on the cat, cos he has just pooed at the bottom of the stairs.
The smell of cat poo wafts in, and Rachel starts to bore of my preoccupation with the telephone. She asks if I am on the phone to the ‘naughty lady’(she means the woman at British Gas, who I may or not have shouted at so loudly, taht even though it was 6 months ago, it is imprinted on Rachels developing consciousness). I am on hold. Then I am cut off. I redial. I go through the menus. I get through to a person, after repeating this several times. I explain that I need to discuss my award for the year, and she asks if I need to appeal. I explain I dont know, because I cant make head nor tail of it. She tells me that they won a prize for ‘plain english’- I suppress the urge to wet myself laughing. Mainly because Rachel has been upstairs for a few minutes, and is being suspiciously quiet. Partly because I am guessing that this person has been dealing with people like me all morning, and would quite like to be at home watching Saturday morning television.
My award explained- it is very simple. I will receive x amount for the next 52 weeks, on the basis of what I have told them.
I feel relieved, I go to get dressed. There are puddles on the floor and the sound of dripping water. This is clearly not good.
I go upstairs, and the bath is overflowing. I have a bath designed for two people. So it has been a while- testament to the efficiency of the tax credits helpline. Rachel has adopted a face of innocence, and explains she was helping me, by running herself a bath. I wade into the bathroom, turn off the water. I plaster a smile on my face. I go downstairs, I sit on the step, and I light a cigarette. I smoke it.
Rachel is clearly aware that there is something wrong- but I cant shout at her. because shouting only works(if ever) if its quite calmly done. If I had shouted, I think I may possibly have sounded like one of those awful parents in precints, effing and jeffing at their frightened looking children, while dragging them along by the arm. I may not be perfect but I know enough to know, that when I am truly angry- letting rip at my daughter is not nice- especially as she barely has the cognitive development to control her own bowels. However in the absence of anyone else to get angry at, and a responsibility not to let my anger show- I am left without even the option of just sitting there seething, and so I pretend I am not.
I survey the damage. I think it will dry out. My house is now covered in every towel I own, which will need to be washed. And there will need to be considerable mopping. Rachel will have to be occupied while this happens, and we still need to go and do the jobs we already had to do. She will be upset if we dont go to the park like we promised, so that will also have to be done. My Saturday night will be defined not by glamour and excess, but mopping, washing, and cleaning. I dont get to sit and whinge, or shout. I am the adult- and there isnt another adult here, who is sufficiently mature enough to process my whinging- and if I whinge at Rachel she will think its her fault. This is the problem with being a parent. Occasionally, you have to grit your teeth, and actually make the choice to be the grown up- when you would much rather sit and stamp your feet, and shout about how unfair it is.
And I havent even tackled the cat poo. Rachel has passed out on the couch, its tiring being two.